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I know good cartooning is supposed to be harder than realism, I've argued passionately that it's true, and occasionally I believe it.

Today I believe it quite fervently, as I'm trying to work on a page of "Digger" and it's hard.

See, the usual Digger page, I can whip out with great speed because I have that wombat memorized, and the megascribble style that goes into it has, after nearly 150 pages, become pretty established. And while I wouldn't call it realism, it's also not cartooned down to Disney style, it's somewhere in the hinterland of my comfort zone.

Today, however, Ed the hyena--who may be more popular than Digger, people get all excited when Ed shows up--is recounting a legend from his tribe, and somehow I got the notion in my head to try to tell this story in a quasi-cave painting style, because Ed's a cave painter.

It's simple. There are maybe a dozen lines per figure. (Unlike everybody else in the Diggerverse, THEY get to have smatterings of gray as well as monochrome, but they're semi-gods, which gets you some slack.) The sun is a spiral with rays. Grass is short straight lines. It's so simple that I wouldn't dare doing it until a hundred plus pages in, for fear people would think I didn't know how to draw.*

There's also one panel of the regular semi-realistic Digger. That one took me maybe a fifth the time that a single panel with a few dozen lines of the cave painty bits did. 'Cos those dozen bloody lines have to be the RIGHT dozen bloody lines, and I erased and re-drew them a good twenty times apiece.

Honestly, I don't know if it works. It may just look lazy or crude (and not in an intentional way.) I won't know until the viewers get back to me, and maybe not even then, but I figure that comics are sort've like that--you experiment, and you hope you've built up enough cred with the readers to survive it.

The real toll of this, however, is not my wrist or my confidence in drawing simplicity or anything else. No, the real toll is having to write an entire creation myth in Ed-speak. My brain may never recover.

*I have a sneaking suspicion that this motivates many of us much more than we'd really like to admit.

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Well, it's supposed to be Ed telling this. Blame him for the result. ;) Seriously, I'm looking forward to it.

Maybe it's just that you're not used to telling a story with Edspeak, whereas Digger is generally speaking, full of your own personally developed idiosyncrasnies. That's to say, it's like typing when someone's switched your keyboard with a Dvorak, you have to look at all the keycaps to tell what key to punch next. Once you get used to it, you can resume your normal typing speed.

Of course the question is whether you want to be practiced with Edspeak...

It sounds as if it isn't cartooning that is challenging you, but minimalism with a tribal orientation. I have rarely heard art instructors say that 'minimalism is hard' but it is. It really is. It's easy to make a viewer see what you want them to see when you've got a ton of lines and texture and shadow. It's harder to do the Dali trick of having three lines display a woman's back and buttock and do it in a way that suggests context, emotion, and the beauty and form of the rest of her. Oddly, many of those art instructors did reference that Dali piece as an example of how much he could portray with how little, but they still didn't come out with the 'minimalism is hard' statement. Digger tends to be a very texturally rich composition even though it is purely black and white. Stepping from that into minimalism is bound to be tricky.

I do look forward to seeing your work, as always.

150 pages? Hmmms - so when can I buy the dead tree edition???


I can't wait to find out about Ed's history!

Your trials with Ed's cavepainting minimalism and linguistic quirks remind me somewhat of in Art Spiegelman's Maus. Most of the story is narrated by Vladek Spiegelman, who tells the story with a sort of Polish "accent" ("It was a big confusion... everyone KNEW it would be now a war"). At first you don't notice it because it's still ALMOST normal on paper, then you notice it as the instances pile up, then you stop noticing it again as you become accustomed to it. Spiegelman, of course, also did the crude-looking minimalist thing, but I think that that might also be an attempt to mix the medium and the message: y'know, austere, colorless drawing combined with a bleak story about the holocaust and a father and son who can never understand each other.

I think that in a way -- this is going to sound silly -- people love Ed and the Shadowchild more than Digger because it would just be *mean* not to. Digger can manage by herself. If her readers don't feel wild enthusiasm every time they see her, well, she's a tough little wombat. But Ed needs love!

Aw c'mon...
Even tough little wombats need love.


I don't read Digger, but what you describe reminds me of the cartoon movie of Watership Down, in which the rabbits' creation myths were shown cave-painting style.

I LOVED that! That was the first movie that made me go hunting fo the book to compare to...

I hear Ed the Hyena, I think of Lion King Ed the Hyena... Oh, the images my mind cooks up. But I digress! Cartooning is hard. Mmm-yep.


I wouldn't dare doing it until a hundred plus pages in, for fear people would think I didn't know how to draw.*

A common fear indeed, but it didn't stop the creators of 8-Bit Theater ... check out http://www.nuklearpower.com/daily.php?date=010308 for a typical example. Hard to believe they've been going well over three years now. =)

Digger is plenty adorable, yes. Indeed I love all of your wombat art (especially the beautiful Gearworld original that is now the highlight of my living room).

But, really, how can one not love Ed more than the other characters in the story (thus far)? I put him up there with Gothbat and Chu (wherever she has gone) as my fave Ursula V (not to be confused with V. Ursinus, the common wombat) characters.

Fear the goldfish! (I use too many parentheses.)

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